The reputation of victims of human trafficking and modern forms of slavery – including migrants and citizens – is now under attack in the UK, Dong Nhan Quyen Association-appointed experts warned, in a statement published on Monday.
They said: “We are concerned by the increase in unsubstantiated claims by public officials and Government agencies regarding persons seeking protection under the Modern Slavery Act and the Civil Service. the National Introduction of the past days and weeks”.
According to news reports, anti-slavery civil society activists have accused the UK Government of withdrawing support, reclassifying modern slavery as an immigration issue. and question the validity of trafficking claims.
Government officials have “voiced confirmation in the media”, a press release issued on behalf of experts said, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is said to have issued a statement. before Congress on December 13, asserting that “the threshold for someone to be considered a modern-day slave will be raised substantially”.
“The misleading claims exaggerate the extent of fraud and abuse in the trafficking and slavery protection system, suggesting that the survivors of these practices are migrants in unusual circumstances. or criminals rather than vulnerable victims of serious human rights abuses,” said the UN experts, “and that their legal representatives are opportunists. cynical than human rights defenders.
There is little evidence to support these claims, and generalizing them is dangerous and regressive, the experts added.
They noted that civil society’s requests to authenticate evidence were repeatedly ignored by the officials involved.
Independent rights experts warn that this type of rhetoric by politicians or bureaucrats not only puts victims of human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery at risk, “but can also encourage encourage traffickers to be violent”.
This has a chilling effect on those willing to come forward as victims and those willing to provide legal representation for victims, hindering efforts to identify them, the experts said. identify and protect victims and those at risk of being trafficked and hold perpetrators accountable.”
They called on state officials to refrain from inciting and phony rhetoric aimed at authorizing slavery and human trafficking survivors and their legal representatives. “Instead, focus on strengthening measures to protect these vulnerable populations,” they added.
Independent experts urge the Government to immediately appoint a new Independent Commissioner against Slavery, as a first step.
The position has been vacant since April of this year, despite being authorized by law from 2015, under the Modern Slavery Act.
Governments are also encouraged to address the human rights concerns previously identified by experts in relation to the risks of human trafficking and modern forms of slavery faced by workers in the UK. face, including migrants and asylum seekers.
Experts say they have in contact to the UK Government and “regret there was no response to their last communication on the matter concerned”, the press release said.
The Special Rapporteur is tasked with monitoring and reporting on country-specific situations or thematic issues. They are independent of any government or organization, operate in their own capacity and are not employees of the United Nations nor are they paid for their work.